SEC issues coronavirus cancellation policy for football season

An Auburn fan moves toward the stadium ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn the Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Fans take photos of the demolished Georgia Dome from the new Mercedes-Benz stadium ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn the Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) A Georgia fan watches play during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn and Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) <p>A Georgia fan watches teams warm up before the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn and Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)</p> <p>Fans watch play during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn and Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)</p> Georgia fans walk into the Mercedes-Benz stadium ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn the Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, center, smiles as he takes the field during an NCAA college football prattice for the Southeastern Conference championship game Auburn on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) <p>The downtown skyline is seen through a window of Mercedes-Benz Stadium as members of Auburn&#39;s football team take the field for a walkthrough (AP Photo/David Goldman)</p> A worker puts up a Southeastern Conference logo ahead of tomorrow's SEC championship NCAA college football game between Georgia and Auburn in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) The downtown skyline is seen through a window of Mercedes-Benz Stadium as members of Auburn's football team takes the field for a walkthrough ahead of tomorrow's Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Georgia players take the field during NCAA college football practice for the Southeastern Conference championship game Auburn on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) Fans line the ring inside the stadium ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn the Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An Auburn fan moves toward the stadium ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn the Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Fans take photos of the demolished Georgia Dome from the new Mercedes-Benz stadium ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn the Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) A Georgia fan watches play during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn and Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) <p>A Georgia fan watches teams warm up before the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn and Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)</p> <p>Fans watch play during the first half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn and Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)</p> Georgia fans walk into the Mercedes-Benz stadium ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn the Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, center, smiles as he takes the field during an NCAA college football prattice for the Southeastern Conference championship game Auburn on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) <p>The downtown skyline is seen through a window of Mercedes-Benz Stadium as members of Auburn&#39;s football team take the field for a walkthrough (AP Photo/David Goldman)</p> A worker puts up a Southeastern Conference logo ahead of tomorrow's SEC championship NCAA college football game between Georgia and Auburn in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) The downtown skyline is seen through a window of Mercedes-Benz Stadium as members of Auburn's football team takes the field for a walkthrough ahead of tomorrow's Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia in Atlanta, Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Georgia players take the field during NCAA college football practice for the Southeastern Conference championship game Auburn on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) Fans line the ring inside the stadium ahead of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game between Auburn the Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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ATHENS -- The SEC announced Friday that teams must have at least 53 players available to play in any game -- including an established number at each position -- otherwise a game may be canceled, rescheduled or declared “no contest.”

The league issued a news release Friday afternoon specifying its policies and parameters for anticipated developments regarding COVID-19 infections of players. The SEC will begin playing its delayed, conference-only schedule Sept. 26, a week from Saturday.

Particularly interesting are the SEC’s prescribed positional minimums. The league specified that for a game to begin each team must have available at least seven offensive linemen (including one center), one quarterback and four defensive linemen. Teams will be given the option to play with fewer than the 53 scholarship players or fewer than the minimum number of position players listed if they choose. Otherwise, upon approval by Commissioner Greg Sankey, the game would be rescheduled or declared a no contest.

The SEC will limit travel rosters to 70 players for conference games. Teams can have as many as 85 players on scholarship, per NCAA rules. The home team can dress of all its players, including walk-ons, but only 80 players can compete in a game. The 70-player travel limitation applies to neutral-site games, such as Georgia-Florida in Jacksonville.

The SEC made its announcement after two games involving Conference USA schools were canceled because of player losses produced by either coronavirus infection or mandatory quarantine. Charlotte canceled its game against North Carolina scheduled for Saturday because it said it didn’t have enough offensive linemen to compete. Likewise, Florida Atlantic canceled its game against Georgia Southern because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The SEC added that any of its members may request to have a game rescheduled or be considered a no-contest by presenting data (including total number of players not available to participate) outlining reasons why the game should not be played as scheduled. The final decision to reschedule a game or declare it a no-contest can be made only by Sankey.

In August, the SEC had its 14 teams drop all non-conference opponents and devised a 10-game conference-only schedule that begins Sept. 26. Playing six division and four non-division opponents, Eastern and Western Division winners will be declared and face off for the SEC championship Dec. 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The SEC built in one mid-season open date and an open date Dec. 12 for all schools in anticipation of possible cancellations.

Georgia, which would have opened versus Virginia on Sept. 7 in Atlanta, is instead starting out against Arkansas in Fayetteville on Sept. 26 (4 p.m., SEC Network). The Bulldogs home opener is now Oct. 3 versus Auburn (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

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